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I was a left-brain person, once upon a time

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Many years ago,  I was rather left brained.  Even as a kid, the only very obvious sign of my rightbrainedness was my involvement in ‘higher risk’ individual sports but who knew then that that was right brain* process?  In fact when I was a kid, the theory was still that the right brain served no purpose.  Really.

What was curious however, was that I was always an advocate for the creative soul, the artist and the adventurers. This showed up in high school, and really played out in my job as a recreation and community coordinator – evolving in me becoming the arts coordinator.. simply, I suppose, because I cared so much.

Then I took up pottery and all hell broke loose.  Slowly but surely, my beautiful meticulous handwriting shifted to illegible.  My organization skills remained good, but my satisfaction in doing that dwindled.   I got involved in building a major skatepark.. because hanging with skaters and their way of thinking, I could relate to.

Magic happened. Seriously. Magic. Synchronicities. Messages from the universe. The creative process became my way to get through tragedies and losses. It became my ‘meditation.’

The point of this post? Never underestimate the power of the creative process. It’s there for you. At any age. No matter who you think you are based on earlier in your life, or even now.  Worth testing out what more time spent creatively might mean for you, don’t you think?

Blissed or Pissed? Do that, then. (Plus Paper Porcelain)

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I dissolve my porcelain clay in large buckets, breaking it up, stirring and fussing with it for days. And same thing again after adding paper.  Paper in clay allows me to create stronger yet thinner and finer creations.  Especially when using porcelain, it has opened my realms of possibilities into all kinds of wonders: from creating the pages for my published book illustrated in clay (The Demise of Noshud Hafta – none left so can’t send you off to a link.. time for a reprint!)  to translucent sails for ships  to … well.. what I thought was going to be mugs, but are, in fact, bliss pots and pissed pots.

Truth is, it was a fleeting thought to create mugs. I learned 20 years ago not to preplan my clay. I learned not to write ideas down because all I’d ever be doing is writing down ideas.. which is silly because once I show up to the clay, something completely different always emerges.

(I have a whole magical memoir of this creative process of grief, faeries, and mud. I think it’s a worthy read. I continue to be thrilled that I published my story, scary as it was to do.

getBook.at/BeyondAllImaginings  )

But that’s not the point right now.  I pour my mixture onto plaster bats where the clay becomes ‘sheets’ to create with.  First sheet off the bat? Not a mug. Huh. Seemed like a good idea, but instead strange sacks evolved.. with bolts, and belts, and faerie prints, and some with tags that say “Bliss.”  One that says “Pissed.”

So , as it turns out, the Bliss Pots, highlighted in 24 kt gold because I love gold, are a place to tuck your inspired stuff – like brushes or pencils or crayons or notes reminding you of your vision, dreams, inspired self, and even more important, to honour how much you rock as you are right now.

But Pissed??

That now common phrase “Follow your Bliss” is a very wise direction. Once a phrase become cliche, though, people often don’t stop to even think what they would mean for them.  Whatever gives you a sense of Bliss, do that.  No. Seriously. Do That!  I hear all the thoughts in your head telling you why you can’t.. but work with me here.  Even if you give yourself a few minutes to contemplate the possibility (instead of the often instant, “impossibility”)  you are taking a grand step in live the full you. We have not had a lifetime telling us to honour our bliss… reminders and tiny steps can help us keep choosing the Bliss Path.  Reminders with gold trim are especially fun, my pottery self tells me.

But think about it, Pissed is the same.  Think about issues that you often find yourself ranting about. Really spend time with them.  They, too, give you clues to what matters to you. Perhaps they have a powerful message for you? Can you do something to change the pissed things? Get them out of your life? Make the world a little better by addressing them?

Clay does this for me. Reveals philosophies and messages every time I show up to it.
(Update as this was an older unpublished post: the blissed and pissed pots are long gone. I think it’s time to play in clay more often again!)

Oops. Sorry. Please open this current post for a gift

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Dear Musing Along subscribers whom I am ever so grateful for,

I’m so proud of myself for going through drafts on my blog and publishing the ones I do want to keep, in preparation to download my blog just for safekeeping. But, damn, I realize now you actually are all getting inundated with these posts and I apologize. I mean, did you really want to read my meanderings of going through treatment for cancer 10 years ago that I had never published because it seemed ‘too much’ to put out there? Sure, there’s some timeless posts on creativity too, but really. I’m sorry. And here’s the thing, I’m not done yet. And I honestly cannot find a way to not send them to you. I’ll keep trying, though.


So, here’s a gift for you -some soul soothing creative play!

I’ve often shared this technique with kids, coaching clients, and friends. Many of you are absolutely aware of the power of the creative mind to destress, bring clarity and answers, and to reignite our inner playful kid. Others of you may have your doubts.

However, if you need a little break from the craziness of the world, and the craziness going on in your mind, take 5 minutes and try this:

1. Get out some paper, pencils or pens.

2. Set timer for 1 minute. Sketch the first image. Badly is ideal.

3. Set timer for 1 minute and sketch next image.

4. Continue to sketch all 5 images.

NOTE: perfectionism will stop many of you from trying this. That is why they are 1 minute sketches. There is NO time for perfect, and you are retraining your brain to play creatively without all the brain babbling that can get in the way.

You can make them 2 minute sketches – but much more than that may trigger the perfectionism, or ‘the I’m not an artist’, or all that silly naysaying that can get in the way of the experience.

So, how amazing are you, anyway?

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Chugga chugga, ding ding…I’m the thought at the top.

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“You could be doing more.” your thought at the top of your thought factory states matter of factly, even though you just came in from a brisk little walk.

“You could be doing more.” another thought at the top comments when you woof down a banana and stuff a hand full of spinach in your mouth on your way out to meet with good friends. “You should be sitting down and eating this. You should make a smoothie with more in it. You should be eating more veggies”

(Update: Yes, this is another unfinished draft.  It’s a good reminder to give some thought to the thoughts at the top of your thought factory, though!)

Ten tried and true ways to fit in

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1. All those genius ideas in your head? The ones that are contrary to the norm and might even evolve into something… ugh.. changing! Keep ’em there. In your head.

2. Always always have your home in perfect order, your grass cut, your office space organized and desk clear. Always.

3. Celebrate procrastination. The more time you spend on facebook, the less likely you will produce something that might reveal you are unique and different.

4. Live by the power of positive thought. Believe that one negative thought is going to damage you for eternity. That should keep your mind in such conflict for most of the day, you’ll truly fit in.

5. Never create a mind map. You will discover things you just don’t want to know if you want to fit in. You may also release yearnings to live your life differently.. and then you’re done. You might as well go live in the bush.

6. Never create a mind map in a group of people. It’ll be sure fire proof that you are one of those things that are not like the others. And the others will discover that, too, and the meeting will be adjourned because the goal of a consensus will not achieved.

7. Draw, paint, write, dance, play guitar, act… but only long enough to decide you are not good enough.

March 2022 update.  This was in my drafts for years. There is no number 8, 9, 10. But I love the first 7!

Rebranding British Columbia

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‘Writing is important. It helps you hear what your mind is saying.”
Quote by E.J.C, at age 4

Note: Not making fun of our province. Just my way of processing challenging times.

~ ~ ~

Come to beautiful Superunnatural BC!

The ideal destination for extreme adventurers, storm chasers and survivalists!

Test your survival skills in our stunning wilderness and in our vibrant cities (may or may not come with electricity.)

Or perhaps try to find your way to our charming small towns. (Never mind, they are having enough to deal with without tourists, plus, sadly, they may or may not still exist.)

Travel our innovative highways.- can you find your way through with flooding streams, sudden washouts, and missing bridges?

Experience not only massive wildfires, non-breathable smoke, and sudden unprecedented winter storms, you might have the exceptional opportunity to be a part of the newest climate disasters!

Will you arrive in a heat dome of killer 50 C temperatures?

Perhaps you will be building a survival shelter as a Bomb Cyclone looms? (Or Storm Bomb. Or Cyclone Bomb. An event so new, the new term is not yet confirmed.) The bonus joy of BC for disaster enthusiasts is the surprises: Surprise! A Bomb Cyclone is coming! Oh, Surprise! It didn’t really amount to much – the Bomb Cyclone bombed – but at least you will get to practice survival preparedness.

A tornado in Vancouver? Yes, that can now happen and may be part of your next adventure!

Ever been in a Grade 5 Atmospheric River? Ever heard of an Atmospheric River, let alone that they come in grades? An ultimate experience for adrenalin junkies and those with a death wish.

Yes, BC is the place to be. Any time of the year. Bring your survival gear and… well… good luck!

The Night of the Mournful Howl

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The howling woke me. A terrifying mournful howl. Like the ghosts in a horror movie. Over and over. Somehow I had to get from my room to my Dad’s without confronting the specter. The power was out, which wasn’t unusual. No light existed to reach in through the windows. Living on the edge of a swamp in a rural area of Iran made the nights without power very very dark. 

Why wasn’t Dad coming to get me? He wouldn’t sleep through this. My heart raced. I felt my way along the walls. What if Dad is hurt or worse? 

I was sweating. My legs were ready to give out on me. Every step I took was an eternity. The howling got louder, scarier. Where’s Dad? I couldn’t get help. We didn’t have a phone. Nobody was close by except the jackals in the swamp and the creature that raced in the attic at night. We pretended it was a squirrel because we didn’t know what to do about it. A cute squirrel that weighed at least 30 pounds from the sound of the thudding little feet but, sure, it was a squirrel.

At Dad’s doorway, I reached down for the flashlight we kept there. The howling was deafening, inhuman, horrifying. I don’t know how long it took for me to switch the flashlight on – I was paralyzed with fear of what I would see. If Dad wasn’t awake and helping me, what happened to him? 

Preparing to die, I turned on the light and shone it in my Dad’s room. He was sitting up in bed. He was howling, a horrific deep inhuman howl.

“Dad! Dad!” I yelled, “Dad, what are you doing?”

He shook his head a bit and looked at me a bit dazed. Then he started to laugh.

“I was scaring away the ghosts in the chimney,” he said.

Holy f-cking hell, I did not say, because back then I never said the f-ck word in front of my Dad. I didn’t reveal the f-ck word from his daughter until I was travelling alone through Yugoslavia and things were going badly and every day the letters I wrote him included f-ck words. 

“Dad. Are you okay?” I rushed over to him. I switched from worrying about us dying to worrying about what the hell was wrong with my Dad that he could make such a noise.

“I was dreaming there were ghosts in the chimney. I was scaring them away.” He laughed and his eyes sparkled like they always did when something was funny.

“It wasn’t funny! It was awful!”

“Sure, but if it didn’t scare you away, I wonder if the ghosts are still in the chimney,” he teased.

He had a way of lightening up any situation, turning it into an adventure. He never did know how frightful the noise was – he just thought it was a dream. We both started laughing. I can still picture the image that formed in my head of Casper the Friendly Ghost peeking out from our fireplace.

~~~~

I miss him. Today, Halloween, is 15 years since he left this world. I wish he were still here with his twinkly eyes, and a sense of humour that made me feel all was right with the world. I love you Dad.

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36 Hours in August Wildfire Season

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Prologue:

This is a story of 36 hours during two months of wildfires in the interior of British Columbia. Just 36 hours of the ongoing insanity of this crisis that began with a heat dome – a term I’d never heard before – that brought us temperatures of 47.5 C (118 F).  Thirty six hours of this ongoing disaster that’s seen two villages burned to the ground, hundreds of deaths at the coast attributed to the heat dome, thousands of people evacuated from their homes, many structures lost, and the devasting loss of forests, wildlife, farm animals, and pets. 

But I’m just the average person, trying to keep on with what must be kept on; my home hasn’t been threatened, but I’m living with dense smoke and three massive wildfires burning nearby. Just like the ninety thousand others in my city. Just living an ordinary life with an extraordinary new perspective with every decision made. ‘Do I have the right items packed ready to evacuate?’ Or, how about this; making plans to paddle or hike, and then coming back to the reality that we don’t get to think that way anymore – there is too much smoke. There’s too much smoke to do anything safely. Or enjoyably.

My daughter and two grandkids are leaving town for a holiday, booked months ago, on Vancouver Island. Good fortune that it is one area not inundated with smoke. They were excited. I was travelling with them to hopefully buy a car in Vancouver.

You see, in a constant state of emergency, one realizes that an old car with 300 000 km, might be exactly the thing that kills you if you are trying to escape a wildfire. That one little breakdown could be the end. That’s a bit stressful, so I’ve been on a mission to find a reasonably priced used car that will fit grandkids and camping gear for our adventures, and one that is in excellent condition. Sure, I was thinking about replacing the old car before this crash of our climate, but the state of affairs pushed a decision to be made. Car shopping, which in the past would have been fun, has been stressful. There’s so few used cars available, apparently because there’s a lack of new cars available, so people are keeping their older cars. Yet another impact of our pandemic mess. Even if there were more cars to look at, it’s a chore. It’s a chore to go out in the smoke and do something that requires decision making. When you are chronically on high alert and in an unhealthy, unsafe, environment, you don’t exactly trust that your brain is high functioning. Every decision is just a little bit harder. Never mind that there is constant uncertainty regarding a pandemic looping around in our brains as well.

Even this travel plan is wrought with unusual thinking: If I don’t find a car, then I will have to bus back. The busses have cancelled their social distancing policy and, they advertise, if I want more space on the bus, I can buy two seats. Do they even wear masks in the bus now?  Or are they pretending that the fourth wave of the covid pandemic isn’t officially underway? Will the bus system cancel runs to the interior because it’s a wildfire disaster and dangerous?  I just hoped the first car I was going to see would be ideal. If not, I guess I’d figure things out. We always do. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021   The 36 hours begins

10 am Sunday morning: 

The smoke is brutal in Kamloops. The day feels like the sun forgot to come up on time. The air is brown, tinged with orange. It feels gritty in my mouth. There’s no view of anything beyond a few blocks. We’re in the car ready to head to Vancouver. We’ve arranged for a friend to check in on the bunnies each day. 

The grandgirls do not know that, early this morning, I’ve delivered the essential items that must be saved in case of fire to that same friend. She lives across the river and is probably safer. I’ve delivered the external drives, the computer, a few albums, one persian rug.  The grandgirls do not know I also snuck all of their items they have had stacked in a corner ‘to be saved’ in an emergency. Things that have been packed for almost two months, ever since the first wildfire that threatened one area of the city made us all realize the threat is real. I snuck their boxes of special stuffies, and sentimental items that remind them of their other grandparents who passed away not long ago, Christmas ornaments, and those things that might seem silly to us but are essential to them. I snuck all of this stuff out because, during the night, the winds came up and the wildfire closest to our home travelled 20km in one night. Twenty kilometers in one night. Frightening.  

My daughter and I debated whether I should just stay home to keep an eye on things. I chatted with a friend who’s in the know about the reality of these wildfires. The fire was still a long way from Kamloops. My friend guessed that ‘you should be okay but leave like you would if evacuated.’  We figured I could be back the next day, if needed, so we set out. Kids thrilled for a trip. Everyone singing to the current favourite playlist. If the kids had known what we knew, that the fires were more threatening than we knew the day before, they would stress every minute of their holiday. They needed this holiday. Kids, summer, pandemic, smoke. It’s been a shit summer. Okay, not entirely shit. They have had good little getaways to the coast. 

10:30 am

Blue skies ahead!

A mere half hour out of town, the sky is blue. The smoke hasn’t just slowly dissipated. There is a distinct line of brown, then blue. I’ve said all along that film makers ought to be gathering footage of all the bizarre sky events – it would make for good background in sci-fi and horror movies. It’s exciting to see, though, that from Merritt onwards is going to be blue skies. And we can breath again! We do normal things, like pull through Starbucks in Merritt for a coffee. There’s no sign of fire, smoke, or holy hellness like in Kamloops. I posted photos to my friends.  Just so they knew there was still a blue sky somewhere.

Noon: 

Random tree on fire

Past Merritt, the eeriness begins. Little whisps of smoke, like steam, appear on each side of the highway. Then, an occasional tree is on fire. Not many. We don’t understand how fire works – why are there just these small whisps of smoke and an occasional tree on fire? Is this a new fire? An old fire? We note that a plane is circling the area and we guess that it’s a spotter plane assessing the situation. 

Some pylons and signs indicate an accident.  Around the corner, in the inside lane, a semi-truck is burning. Firemen are dousing the fire with their massive hose.  And what do we think? We think, “Why do semis keep burning this summer?” We don’t think, “Oh my god, a semi is burning!’  That would be the normal response. That would be the big news of a trip in normal times. But now, semis burning are just a sideline in the news, unless that fire is likely to set the forest on fire. Our landscape is tinder to even the tiniest spark. The heat dome prepared it to be that way. Our first thoughts include that we are glad the burning semi-truck is on the inside lane and not near the dried grass on the side of the highway.

Semi burning

The scattered whisps of smoke, a burning semi truck. Well, isn’t this an apocalyptic scene, I think. ‘Apocalyptic’ shows up in conversations and thoughts a lot these days.

The burning semi-truck really should have been the story we told because it has a touching moment. A grandchild turned to watch the event as we passed. 

“Oh my!” She exclaimed, “A firefighter is comforting an older fellow who looks so sad!”

Instead of being desensitized to the whole event, because it’s small in comparison to the rest of the crisis, we were reminded that this semi and its tragic end has affected someone badly. And the firefighters are doing much more than fighting fires. 

This is the moment that I recognized how much our thoughts are changing being in this crisis for so long. We normally would have been instantly empathetic to the accident. We also should have been scared by the smoke, but we were not. The sky was blue. There were no big fires showing themselves. The semi was burning in the middle of the road, not on the edge. All was okay.

But all was not okay. 

2 pm ish

Vancouver: The family are all delighted to be together again. Cousins and aunties are full of hugs. Though I’ve seen the Vancouver family recently, my daughters hadn’t seen each other for a year, thanks to the pandemic. I love that we are together. I love watching the interactions of these amazing grandchildren and their mothers. 

So happy together!

I only have an hour before my son-in-law is taking me to see the potential new car. In that hour, crazy reports are showing up on twitter. As Kamloopsians, we are in the habit of checking twitter, the BC Wildfire site, weather reports, air quality apps, and highway reports on a regular basis. We’ve also learned, by the way, that the apps we count on to inform us and direct us in the most critical moments can fail. On our scariest days so far, these apps have crashed from being overloaded. If you learn nothing else from this story, know that you cannot completely count on emergency alerts or highway reports or regional districts to advise you. 

As Kamloopsians, we are on edge checking the fate of the nearby small town of Logan Lake, currently evacuated and directly in the line of fire, literally. But this little town, unlike many who recently thought the climate crisis is a thing ‘on the way,’ Logan Lake has been preparing for years for this event. They’ve fire-smarted their community, including sprinklers on every home as they left. We are all watching and rooting for them.

Between the adults in the room, we are quietly sharing the posts about the insane air quality in Kamloops, and all of the Okanagan. Thick orange-tinged smoke filled skies. Other areas so black in the middle of the afternoon that people have to use their headlights to drive. Street lamps are coming on. We are sharing updates that show wildfires are becoming more threatening to more communities. 

I feel strangely guilty for being safe in clean fresh air. I even have a bit of FOMO. Crazy – but here I was, having witnessed two months of the insanity, now missing out on what seemed to be worst day of the crisis. What is wrong with my brain, I wonder.

4 pm

But still, I get to buy a car. The car turns out to be perfect, and we arrange to finish the purchase the next night. There’s a bank draft to get, and the seller has to work, so waiting 24 hours is deemed necessary.  I’m pleased with the car, but more than anything, I’m relieved. I will have a car that is more reliable for whatever is needed – escaping fires or camping trips with my grandchildren.

Would I have ever imagined that escaping fires would be a reason to get a reliable car? No. But the climate crisis is here. We now have to keep disaster preparedness in mind for all of our decisions. This is not pessimism or negativity. This is a done deal. This kind of thinking has to be a part of our life planning now. We are no longer trying to prevent a climate crisis. We are in the climate crisis. Best thing we can do is to include it in our planning.  I know it’s so easy to watch from a distance and not get it. I’ve watched many disasters from the distance. This is why I’m telling this story. It really is happening.

6 pm

My daughters go out for dinner while I hang out with the kids and son-in-law.  The text messages start bouncing between us. 

People are posting videos of horrific drives through the Coquihalla – the exact area that we drove through only a few hours earlier. Raging fires on both sides of the roads. Videos are posted full of fear, swearing, panicked voices saying, ‘Hurry, get us out of here.” 

Evacuation notices and alerts are being announced for so many areas of the interior that we can’t keep up. A fire starts in the city of Kelowna and an evacuation takes place immediately. 

The Coquihalla Highway is soon shut down due to the fire. This is the main highway out of the interior. We cannot even process how those whisps of smoke turned so quickly into a raging inferno. 

That stunningly blue-skyed community of Merritt we passed through? Well, now it is on evacuation alert. Plus homes are burning on Okanagan Lake. Small towns are being evacuated. Mines are evacuated. 

7 pm

Alert too close for comfort

While we are trying to wrap our head around how badly wrong things are going at home, the emergency alert app notifies us that parts of Kamloops are on evacuation alert. The alert boundary is within a kilometre of our homes. Holy fucking hell. We’ve just experienced how fast a bit of smoke and a few trees on fire can turn into something catastrophic.  We know that it is not unrealistic that our homes could go up in smoke any time. 

Drive BC, the highway app, crashes. There are thousands more people currently being evacuated or put on alert in the last hours. Highways are being closed. And the system we’ve counted on for years to tell us the road conditions, crashes. Twice in the night. They tweet: ‘Oops.’

I don’t know where all these evacuees are going to go. Everywhere is full. I’m kicking myself for not loading up the camp gear, so neatly packed at my door for exactly this kind of situation. 

My daughters and I meander outside, so the children don’t hear our conversations.  

“Holy crap,” we all agree.

Many ideas are tossed around. Does daughter continue on her holiday? We agree, yes. Her and kids are safe and out of the smoke. 

Do I go back and get the bunnies and the stuff out? No, the other highway isn’t doing well either. 

“At least we are all together and safe here,” I say.

“My stuff is just stuff, Mom,” One daughter says, “but your stuff – it’s got to be saved.”

Other daughter nods, “You have to get your stuff out.”

So, let me expand on the impact of these comments by my daughters. I’m the keeper of many family treasures – antiques, albums, mementos of loved ones gone – that sort of thing. I’d happily have passed these treasures onto my daughters, (and they do have some) but they are trying to avoid stuff. Stuff and kids just gets overwhelming. When I did a major downsize, they didn’t leap to claim all the treasures. So, I thought they weren’t that concerned about the treasures. 

And here I was now, watching the look of concern on my daughters’ faces about the treasures. In this moment, I understood how important these items were. That was heartwarming. Important enough to send their mother back to Kamloops to make sure it was all safe. Ha.  Wait? What?  Hmmm.

I phone my friend in charge of bunnies. Yes, phone. I actually need a real conversation for this event. It’s hard to make decisions. She offers to go get the bunnies and take them to her house. She’s sure the cats will be fine with it. We laugh. 

A few texts follow the phone call:  ‘Could you please just take these couple items from my daughter’s house, as well?  The M.C. Escher print?  And her work computer?’  Not only does she agree to this, her and her family go to my place, too, to get more of my items as well. You know, so my daughters don’t have to worry about all the treasures being lost and all. It’s not hard to figure out what they should grab. I have post-its on things. I put those on at the beginning of the wildfires, just in case an evacuation happened, I wouldn’t miss grabbing as many of the important things as I could.

Aw. My friend sent this photo: Bunnies safely tucked into her bathroom

I text the fellow I’m buying the car from:

Hi Ray, An evacuation alert has been issued a km from my home. It’s a very bad day in Kamloops and area and on the highways. I do want to head back as soon as possible and I can wait till after we do all the transfers on the car, but if it is at all possible to do that earlier in the day, please let me know.  Hard to say if I can even get through on the highways but if I could, I would go to pack more things from home. Thanks.

Ray figures out a way for me to pick up the car the next morning.

9 am Monday.

After a mostly sleepless night, with constant check-ins on how the crisis is evolving at home and on the highways, I set out with my daughter to get a bank draft, sign papers, get insurance and pick up my new car. I’m grateful for the seller’s empathy and help.

Other daughter and kids head off on their vacation. Am I jealous they get to go on a ferry and smoke-free vacation? Yup. But delighted they get to, as well. Still, my stomach lurches in dread as I imagine having to go back to Kamloops where the air pollution index has been off the charts for 2 months.

No sooner is the new car in my possession than the rains begin. A massive downpour. I send the downpour thoughts to take its rain to the interior. 

Kids. Always highlighting the good in the world

My youngest grandgirls get the first ride in the new car. They are pure joy, laughing and leaping about excitedly. Kids. Always highlighting the good in the world.

3 pm

I’m on my way home. In Hope, I check Drive BC. It tells me that I have to take the Princeton Highway – which, for god’s sakes, takes days. My brother had been checking in with me and said his wife got through on Hwy 1.  A shorter route than the one the app insists on, but not as quick as the currently closed Coquihalla that we usually travel. I phone my sister-in-law. Sue says she got through a few hours earlier on Hwy 1, easily enough. ‘Well, there was that one spot that required a police escort through a fire zone, but otherwise okay.’  So, I head that way. Imagine that a police escort through a burning hell hole seems like the best option. Perspectives change when you’ve had so many crises, I guess. 

Choosing Hwy 1 – Rain! Beauty!

It’s been years since I travelled this route – the first part is stunningly beautiful; full of mountains, and rivers and fabulous tunnels. They were always an adventure for my brothers and I when we were little and off on a family vacation. Best of all, it was still raining. I willed the rain to follow me all the way home.

The rain came down even harder. I’m pretty sure I had a smirk on my face the whole time. But, as I passed by Lytton, the apocalyptic thoughts weighed in. A part of me still thrilled the rain was drowning out fires, but this little town – this is the town that became internationally famous in June. The heat dome took the temperatures there to 50C (122F). The whole world heard about it. I had joked with a family I met from there that now they were internationally famous. The next day the town burned to the ground. In a matter of an hour. Devastated. 

Even believing I was on Earth became challenging as I drove through this area. The landscape was ash grey and white. Toothpicks of grey trees looked more like spikes coming from the ash, than anything that was once a beautiful tree. The rain was getting heavier, but the smell was not something I’ve smelled before. A humid steam of heavy smoke. It was suffocating. 

The main area of Lytton is not right on the highway, but I saw this:  What was once a gas station or store burned to the ground, and not that far along, one that survived. Fire does not do what seems logical. We are learning that this summer. Part of our immediate concerns for our homes is that there’s a bit of forest behind both of our homes. Just a bit. All it would take is one burning ember to set that ablaze, while leaving other areas closer to the fire possibly safe. But still, those few places that survived the Lytton fire – it’s incomprehensible how that happened when one witnesses the absolute devastation in the area. My heart aches for those who lost so much and for those who died.

I will never forget the moments driving through this area, the rains so heavy that my windshield wipers struggle to keep up. I ask my car what it thinks of its new life. Previously it had hardly been driven and, of those miles, mostly back and forth to work in Vancouver. Welcome to life with Janet, new car. We do do adventures. But this is not exactly ideal. This is an unrealistic sci-fi story I’m in. Wait, no, the rain is ideal. I’m still smiling because it’s following me home. 

So much rain! No photos of Lytton area. It was so hard to witness it, I don’t think I wanted to capture it and make it ‘real.’

The drive is slow. This two-lane highway is full of semi-trucks that have no other route to take. The oncoming semis drown my car in their wake. I try to stay back from the semis in front of me, so I have at least some visibility.  The evening sky is weirdly dark with the ashen steaming smoke and stormy rain. 

Still, by nature, I adore driving in a storm. This is the challenge of this 36 hours. Processing joy and disbelief and tragedy all at the same time. This is the challenge every day, it seems.

I carry on as night finds its way through the smoke that stays with me for the rest of the trip. A convoy of army trucks are on the highway. When have I ever seen that? I think I have, but I can’t remember when. Every side road has a blockade stopping people from travelling off the highway. They also have a car with one person sitting there to make sure nobody tries to cross the barriers. I feel like I’m in a war zone.

And finally, it’s 10 pm. I’m home. 

I get a text: “Are you okay?”  

“Yup, I’m home.”  

“Good. Mudslides just closed the road you were on. You just made it through.” 

Not just one mudslide, but two. Turns out a burned out dried landscape cannot absorb all that rain. Sigh.

And that’s how my 36 hour story ends. Home safe. No real big deal, to be honest. So many people, so many homes, so much land, and so many animals have been impacted in a way that I have not. I’m okay.  My family is okay. My home is okay. The bunnies are okay. I’m just an ordinary person living in a climate disaster and this is how 36 hours can play out. 

It’s exhausting. It’s real. It’s not going away. The climate crisis is here. It’s everywhere.

My take is that now is the time to invest in all that we need to survive. Priorities like firefighting and emergency resources and equipment; more wildfire fighters and emergency personnel trained, paid well, treated fairly, with shift changes that give them proper rest; air conditioning systems for everyone; power grids that can handle the demand on the systems…  the list goes on.  

And of course, reliable vehicles. I honestly still find it hard to believe I bought a new car with ‘reliable escape vehicle’ being a motivation.  

But, I did. The world is a little crazy these days, isn’t it? Grateful for the joyful moments and the precious moments that keep me emotionally afloat. I hope you have many of those moments to keep you going through the ongoing stresses of our times.

Quicklisting Spiritlifting Things

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Day 17 of 30.

Every day in September, I’ve been choosing what I can do fun, or funny, that day. Today, throwing a smokey sky into the mix of this crazy year reminds me how very important is to find what lifts your spirit. As we head into an uncertain Fall and Winter, maybe you’d like to try what I’m doing today:

Quicklisting spiritlifting things. 

Quicklisting means writing/typing a specific number of answers in one sitting in answer to a question. I’m going to choose 100 because I know that’s do-able, but you may not believe me yet, so choose 50? 

Today I will ask, “what’s fun and lifts your spirits?” I will just start typing (setting document to automatically do numbers) and when I get to, say, number 20 and I’m stuck, I will write something like, “Oh look, there’s a spec on the floor” or “why am I doing this?” or you could write, “Janet’s ridiculous” BUT I will keep writing, anyway, until I reach 100 items. 

This process is excellent at ultimately revealing answers that you had buried for one reason or another, or discovering brand new answers that will bring a sparkle to your eyes. Those last 10 items can be very telling.

And then? Give yourself permission to do those spiritlifting things. You are worth it.

Image is a photo of a card my daughter sent me from Scotland many years ago. Isn’t it stunning?

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